Opinion: Comment from SPEDWatch founder

Feb 14, 2021

To the editor:

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently issued a finding of noncompliance against the Wareham Public Schools in a complaint filed by SPEDWatch, Inc. SPEDWatch is a Massachusetts nonprofit organization founded for the purpose of securing the educational rights of all Massachusetts schoolchildren with special needs.

I am responding to a letter posted to the district’s web page by Wareham Director of Special Education, Melissa Fay, concerning this complaint. That letter states in part: “It is also important to recognize that this is not a parent complaint, but an advocate with opportunity for financial gain who claims to speak on behalf of families. In fact, the District did not receive one parent complaint on this language.

First, I am an advocate, but I am also the founder of SPEDWatch. The complaint was filed by SPEDWatch. I am not paid by SPEDWatch. No financial gain accrues to me in this matter. Second, federal law clearly allows an organization to file such complaints (See 34 CFR §300.153). Finally, complainants are not limited to parents who reside in the town cited. The fact that the complaint was not filed by a specific Wareham parent has no bearing on the merits of the complaint.

SPEDWatch has 885 parent members in 200 Massachusetts school districts (including Wareham) and in 34 other states. We are thoroughly familiar with the chaos that the pandemic has created for educators, students, and families. This does not mean we will ignore noncompliance when we discover it.

Ellen M. Chambers, MBA

Founder SPEDWatch, Inc.